Local Business

Cruise tourists offered taste of St David’s

  • Out in the field: pictured, from left, are Marta Olander, Kristin White and Janet DeBraga on the Olander family farm in St David’s (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
  • Marta Olander, started farming a few years ago (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
  • Hans and Marta Olandar’s St David’s farmhouse (Photograph Jessie Moniz Hardy)
  • Tour operator Kristin White, left, with Marta Olander and Janet DeBraga (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

After four years of showing Bermuda’s visitors the food, history and even ghosts of St George’s, Kristin White is taking things further afield.

This summer the owner of Long Story Short will be offering Norwegian Cruise Line passengers A Taste of St David’s.

“I wanted to celebrate the history of St David’s, the culture and also to tell some stories about the food,” she said. “I think St David’s has a really strong sense of food history. There is stuff that is made in St David’s that isn’t made anywhere else across the island.”

Alexandra Battery, Carter House, Clearwater Beach and St David’s Lighthouse will be featured in the three-hour tour, but the highlight promises to be Marta and Hans Olander’s farm on Jacob’s Point Road.

Ms White said the farm is a rare slice of old Bermuda. “It’s magical,” she said. “I wouldn’t have done the tour, if I hadn’t been able to get the Olander’s farm as part of it.”

The farm has been passed down in Mr Olander’s family, the Brangmans.

In previous generations the family grew cassava, but gardening largely stopped there in recent times. Then a few years ago Marta Olander, originally from Costa Rica, started things up again.

“I started a little farm only for me, and started to do a little bit of this and that,” she said. “I was giving what I grew to my neighbours. They would say you’re producing so much, why don’t you sell the stuff?”

The Saturday morning farmers’ market in Paget was a bit far for her to go, so she started selling her produce out of the back of her car, on Kindley Field Road. Things didn’t go well, at first.

“I remember coming home and thinking I have all these vegetables to put in the trash,” she said. But as time went on business picked up, and she now has a loyal following.

Janet DeBraga will be a tour guide for a Taste of St David’s, offering visitors her family stories, and information and history about St David’s. The tour will also offer information about the St David’s connection to the Native American community in the United States.

“St David’s is often forgotten by tourism, unless it is Powwow time, or something that interests them,” she said.

Mrs DeBraga’s family, the Foxes and O’Connors, have lived on St David’s Island since the 1700s. She said the St David’s of her childhood was a neighbourly and welcoming one.

She remembers often coming home to find her grandmother Jessie O’Connor’s house filled with strangers.

“Someone could be walking by and think what smells good? She’d say come on in,” Mrs DeBraga said. “In the old days, before St David’s was connected to the mainland, people would come to visit by boat. Visiting was an all day affair. If you knew a visitor was coming you cooked.”

She remembered her grandmother cooking suck-rock stew, a St David’s Island speciality, but she confessed though that she never ate any, herself.

St David’s is also known for mullet roe and shark hash.

Mrs DeBraga will talk about them on the tour, but they probably won’t be on offer.

“Something like mullet roe takes a lot of time to make,” Ms White said. “But we will have Bermuda specialities like fish chowder and fish cakes for visitors to try.”

Tour-goers will also be able to sample Olander produce, and purchase Olander-made items such as pickled beets.

“We want this to be something that brings some revenue to the farm and introduces people and gives them a glimpse, but it is the Olander’s farm,” Ms White said. “We don’t want it to turn into Disneyland.”

She said it’s important not to lose the spirit of something while you’re trying to create a tourism product out of it. “We don’t want to turn it into Disneyland,” she said.

This year, the tour will be offered only to NCL cruise passengers docked in St George’s.

“We want to keep it really small this year, so we can evaluate if this is something we want to move forward with,” Ms White said. Next year they might expand it.

Ms White said her other tours have proven to be popular with locals who want to learn more about Bermuda history, taste the food and see parts of the island they’ve never seen before.

For more information about Ms White’s tours, see her website www.kristindotcom.com or e-mail hiya@kristindotcom.com